The World Series. The Super Bowl. Wimbledon. The World Cup. None of them come close to matching the history, pageantry, or prestige of professional wrestling’s annual extravaganza: Wrestlemania.
Through this event, wrestlers like Hogan, Savage, Hart, Michaels, Austin, Rock, Angle, Lesnar and Cena have written their names into the history books, using their art to transcend their fragile mortal frames to become Superstars. Years of blood, sweat, and tears culminated in epic clashes between good and evil on the grandest stage of them all, each of them hoping to participate in a moment that is worthy of the Wrestlemania name.
Something that is absolutely, 100 per cent not worthy of the Wrestlemania name is 1993’s Wrestlemania: the Album, a bizarre, curious experiment that for reasons not yet explained, attempted to merge the disparate worlds of funky pop music and wrestlers shouting their signature catchphrases. Why does this album exist? It’s a legitimate question, and like all provocative works of art, Wrestlemania: the Album asks more questions than it answers.
Still, Wrestlemania: The Album isn’t Vince McMahon’s first musical foray. He achieved his first taste of mainstream success in the early ’80’s with MTV’s crossover hit Rock ‘n Wrestling (which tied into the birth of Wrestlemania itself and led to then-WWF’s first foray into music, The Wrestling Album and Piledriver: The Wrestling Album 2.) As 1993 rolled around, with his promotion drifting back into the fringes of pop culture obscurity, McMahon once again set his sights on the pop charts.
Songwriters Mike Stock and Pete Waterman were brought in to produce the album alongside famously acerbic A&R executive Simon Cowell, who served as executive producer. Wrestlemania: the Album was released in 1993 by RCA Records, but unfortunately it failed to make much of a dent in the billboard charts (though it somehow reached number 10 in the UK). Is it a good album? No. But is it important? Also no. But is it worth listening to? Absolutely, unequivocally, yes. Let’s dive in.
Sample lyric: “Whoa, whoa / Wrestlemania / Yeah this is our lives (pump it up, pump it up)”
Inexplicably, the title track from Wrestlemania: the Album opens with a canned sample of a WWE announcer enthusiastically asking the listener if they are “ready for the Survivor Series.” For those coming to this album from a place of wrestling ignorance, the Survivor Series is a B-tier pay-per-view that, while an annual tradition in and of itself, is better known for launching the career of the Gobbledy Gooker than that of Hulk Hogan. So we’re not off to a great start.
The song manages to overcome this initial stumble with a sparkling guitar riff that leads into a genuinely catchy chorus, but all earned goodwill is immediately lost as the various Superstars begin appearing over the instrumental, vaguely yelling threatening things at one another. Reverse shout out to the Nasty Boys, who chime in, insisting that “you’re gonna get nasty stuff right down your throats all through ’93.”
Guys, kids are going to listen to this album. Could you not have saved this filth for the “Nasty Boy Stomp”? It’s like three songs from now.
2. “Slam Jam”
Sample lyric: “Everybody to a man stand / It’s a Slam Jam / Ohh whoa”
“Slam Jam” is a song for people who heard the album opener and thought, “Yeah it’s good, but what I need is something even more generic.” Nevertheless, this was the “big single” from Wrestlemania: The Album, shockingly reaching no. 4 on the UK singles chart.
Once again, various wrestlers make appearances over a mostly instrumental track, sounding like something a low-level dance crew would play during a costume changeover. This one even features some Superstars that didn’t appear elsewhere on the album, like the British Bulldog, who was most likely included to help the song’s UK prospects. His main contribution? Saying “I am the British Bulldog, and you’re going down.” He was a better powerslammer than lyricist.
Sample lyric: “U.S.A. / U-U-U-U.S.A. / U.S.A. / Hooooooooooooo”
“U.S.A.” does at least rise to the level of something that you would hear while awaiting faceoff at an international hockey game—it has a Jock Jams-esque backbeat with a shoehorned-in jingoistic chorus by patriotic wood-wielder “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan. Unlike other tracks on Wrestlemania: The Album, which feature specially recorded catchphrases, “U.S.A.” seems to have been culled from an interview: It compares the apprehensive moments before he emerges from the curtain to the exultant ass-beatings he delivers in the squared circle.
4. “Nasty Boy Stomp”
Sample lyric: “It’s just you and us / And you’re going to Nastyville / And it’s one trip you’re not coming back from (laughter)”
Where exactly is Nastyville? Was it ever explained? Maybe Nastyville is a just pleasant suburb in Pennsylvania, perhaps where sweet old Gam-Gam Nasty lives. Maybe the Nasty Boys were just inviting their co-workers over for a pleasant afternoon of home-cooked food and Scrabble. Of course you’re not coming back from your trip to Nastyville—once you arrive you’ll never want to leave! Were they just reacting with anger and violence because they didn’t understand why no one wanted to meet their beloved Gam-Gam? How much unnecessary pain and suffering could have been avoided over the years?
According to Wikipedia, this song borrowed percussion and bass elements from “Visions of China” by Japan, as well as “Nasty” by Janet Jackson. Remember, it’s not who did it first. It’s who did it best.
5. “Never Been a Right Time to Say Goodbye”
Sample lyric: “I’d rather turn away / Than see her hurt today / But either way / She’ll end up crying / No denying / There’s never been a right time to say goodbye”
“Never Been a Right Time to Say Goodbye” eschews the subtle hip-hop flavours of the earlier tracks in lieu of a Hagar-era Van Halen sound, with then-WWE champion Bret “The Hitman” Hart providing an introspective rumination on love gone wrong in soulful monotone.
As strange as that may sound, it’s hard to argue with the end result: this song is kind of a jam. It’s funny, because the lyrics have an actual rhyme scheme, almost as if they were written to be, y’know, actually sung. But the Excellence of Execution was having none of that. Fair enough. Also, massive demerits to the writers for using Bret Hart in a cheesy love song and refusing to give it a title that plays on the Hart/Heart pun that’s staring them right in the damn face.
Maddeningly, there is a song later in the album called “Speaking From the Heart.” It’s performed by “Macho Man” Randy Savage. Come on.
6. “The Man in Black”
Sample lyric: “The man in black / Has a tombstone just for you / Dance with the Taker”
Throughout its three-decade history, no single wrestler been a Wrestlemania emblem more than The Undertaker. Not Hogan. Not Savage. Definitely not Lawrence Taylor. Over the last few years, his legendary 21-0 streak became the focal point of each event, often overshadowing whatever was happening in the main event storyline.
During this run, Taker and his opponent would milk the built-in drama for all it was worth, resulting in epic matches with the likes of Edge, Randy Orton, Batista, CM Punk, Triple H, and two of the greatest bouts in Wrestlemania history against “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels. Many thought his legacy was forever tarnished with his loss to Brock Lesnar last year. Those people have clearly never heard this song, which features the gravel-voiced Deadman saying seemingly random creepy stuff (“rotting flesh… moving carcass…”) over a backing track that sounds like the theme music to the dungeon stage of a generic NES adventure game. This is very bad.
7. “Speaking from the Heart”
Sample lyric: “I will be there with you when it happens / The past the present and the future all at one time / We’re all gonna climb that mountain together / And we are together forever”
At least this song has the courage to be the musical version of a classic unhinged, incoherent Macho Man promo. Whereas other Superstars might’ve been content to spout generic wrestler stuff that the producers could loop over a backing track, Savage clearly saw this as an opportunity to string together some of his patented batshit crazy, esoteric nonsense.
It’s a little hard to follow where he’s going, but it sounds like this song is an admission by Macho that he’s actually some kind of all-powerful, God-like creature who’s… going to be there with us when we die so he can guide us into the afterlife? Again, it’s tough to say. There’s a lot to unpack here.
BONUS VIDEO: Macho Man appearing on Global TV’s Entertainment Desk to promote Wrestlemania The Album (and an upcoming return match against Doink the Clown). It is magical.
8. “Tatanka Native American”
Sample lyric: “Tatanka / Buffalo / Tatanka / Buffalo”
Really, the less said about this song the better. There’s a good chance that even listening to it qualifies as a hate crime. Let’s just move on.
9. “I’m Perfect”
Sample lyric: “Mr. Perfect / Mr. Perfect / Mr. Perfect / I’m perfect”
For a song dedicated to “Mr. Perfect” Curt Hennig, the effort level on this one is pretty damned abysmal. It’s essentially just a remix of his classic WWE theme, with some added samples of him saying “Mr. Perfect” over and over (and over).
There’s also a few diatribes about how he is good at doing various things, including (but not limited to) professional wrestling. Hennig’s injury-plagued pro career is always looked at through the lens of “what could have been,” and this song is no different. It’s a poor effort; it doesn’t come close to paying tribute to someone who wasn’t only one of the greatest wrestlers ever, but was also capable of throwing an 80-yard touchdown pass to himself. Do you know anyone else that can do that? No, you do not.
[ED: We also don’t know anyone who hates rap as much as Hennig. R.I.P., Mr. Perfect.]
10. “Cold Crush”
Sample lyric: “One at a time / Two at a time / I live for competition”
Due to Youtube mislabeling—this song isn’t actually called “Hard Times”—and the fact that he’s not included anywhere in the album art, it took a few bars to realize that this song actually featured Crush, WWE’s fun-loving Hawaiian. The problem here? There was nothing really interesting or unique about Crush. He was just a large man with an exceptional mullet and a penchant for crushing the skulls of his opponents.
He didn’t have a catchphrase that the producers could loop, and there’s nothing even uniquely Hawaiian about the song. It’s the musical equivalent of white bread with margarine. Crush’s contributions can be boiled down to “If I was still in Hawaii, I’d probably be surfing and hanging out, but since I’m here, I try to cause traumatic brain injury to people,” and “don’t use drugs, kids.”
Really, the funniest thing about this song is that by the time 1993 rolled around, Crush had reinvented himself as a face-painted, goatee-rocking, America-hating evildoer. So essentially, if you like this song, you hate America.
11. “Hard Times”
Sample lyric: “He carries a big stick / A ball and chain too / If you’re looking for trouble he’ll be coming after you / You’ll serve hard time”
Ray Traylor turned a short stint as a Georgia prison guard into a decades-long pro-wrestling career that reached its apex during his late ’80’s/early ’90’s. You probably know him as The Big Boss Man. Despite not being a significant fixture of WWE TV at the time—he left the company midway through ’93—he gets his own blues-influenced track here, the last one on Wrestlemania: The Album.
Again, this is simply a remix of his everyday WWE theme, with a few new production elements and some samples of the Boss Man talking about law and order and stuff. It kind of feels like at this point in the recording process, the producers had essentially given up and were just trying to finish the project. We empathize with them.
But while Wrestlemania: The Album can pretty objectively be labeled a failure, this Sunday’s Wrestlemania 31 is shaping up to be anything but. Last year, undersized vegan submission expert Daniel Bryan overcame tremendous adversity to pull off an unlikely upset, winning the WWE World Heavyweight Championship and sending millions of wrestling fans into a state of rapturous bliss. This Sunday, ascendent newcomer Roman Reigns looks to overcome a different kind of adversity: He had a badly managed push to the top of the card that’s played to none of his strengths, exposed his relative inexperience, and made him the focus of nuclear hatred from millions of wrestling fanboys.
He’s also faced with the unenviable task of unseating the current champ, sandwich-loving Viking demigod Brock Lesnar, who just signed a fat new WWE contract that officially ensures he and his advocate, legendary manager/promoter Paul Heyman, will be wreaking havoc in the squared circle for years to come.
Elsewhere, WWE COO Triple H battles WCW icon Sting in his first-ever match for the promotion; John Cena looks to redeem himself against Reagan-era throwback Rusev; outside-looking-in main eventers Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler and Dean Ambrose mix it up with a few other top mid-carders in a multi-man ladder match for the Intercontinental strap; mysterious Bayou cult leader Bray Wyatt will attempt to push the Undertaker’s newest streak to 0-2; despicable screamo sociopath Seth Rollins tries to prove himself against cagey veteran sociopath Randy Orton; and a plethora of we’ve-got-nothing-for-you-right-now wrestling castaways compete in the second annual Andre the Giant Battle Royale.